Words by Teesha Kooraram
Benedict Okwuchukwu Godwin Chijioke, also known by the stage name TY, was born on August 17, 1972, in London, into an Igbo family from Nigeria. He spent several years in private foster care in Jaywick, Essex to focus more on his studies. Benedict Chijioke made his debut at an open mic competition at Muthaland at the Borderline in London’s West End. He has been active in the rap industry from the 1990s to 2020. TY indulged in the hip hop genre and worked as a vocalist, rapper and producer. He released several albums notably; Awkward (2001), Upwards (2004), Closer (2006), Special Kind of Fool (2010), ‘Kick, Snare and an Idea‘ (2013), and a Work of Heart (2018). His debut album Awkward was an epiphany for the American audience and his storytelling skills were revealed through his tracks. The album Upwards (2004) was globally recognised for its nomination for the Mercury Prize along with Amy Winehouse and the Streets. Alongside his work for the British Council, TY was also the associate of the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, established by rapper Akala in 2009.
‘Like You Never’ has been one remarkable masterpiece from the album a Kick, Snare and an Idea Part 1. It was released on April, 2013, with bang on facts about the current modern music industry and globalisation. We are propelled in a nostalgia where lyrics were profound, associated with intricate musical compositions. We are reminded of artists who sang songs filled with passion emanating from the originality of their voices. TY embark us in a thought-provoking piece about the realities of life and the struggles of some people in the world. TY feed us with the conscience that a world imbued with differences would bring a spectrum of nuances in the musical arena. In this way, the artists would seek their genuine personalities in a world of replicas and artifices. Benedict Chijioke was a seeker of truth and it could be distinguished through his musical pieces.
While the universe was overthrown with the devastating pandemic, the news broke that TY became a victim of coronavirus. A fundraiser was established in April and claimed that Ben Chijioke was ‘‘admitted into the hospital with medical complications related to Covid-19. Shortly after, he was put in a medically induced coma to temporarily sedate to help his body receive the appropriate treatment”. With the appropriate treatments, his condition ameliorated in mid April and he left the intensive care unit. TY’s fans were following the updates of his health condition on his fundraising page through his organiser Diane Laidlaw. She stated that, “Ty’s condition had been improving but last week while on a normal ward he had contracted pneumonia which worsened his recovery and ultimately Ty’s body couldn’t fight back anymore … close friends, family and fans are devastated of his death.” TY passed away at the age of 47 years on the 7th of May 2020.
Fans, friends and family were afflicted with this tragedy. It was a great loss for the rap industry. Several friends and collaborators paid their tribute to Benedict Chijioke through social media posts. Ghetts wrote; ‘RIP Ty. This ones deep I had a lot of respect for ty one of the first from the older generation to embrace me and show me love fly high ty” on instagram while Snips tweeted “This man did a lot for us. A true London legend. RIP.” Besides, the author Nikesh Shukla wrote: “Rest in peace Ty. You were one of the nicest people I ever met. Such a huge huge loss … Devastated.”
TY was portrayed by the tributes as a generous individual endowed with generosity, compassion and made a magnificent contribution to the music industry through his intellect and talent. His main aim was to promote his music signatuere and raise rap to a heightened status in the UK’s music industry.
His last words to the audience were ;
“Our music is considered ‘unclassic’ by mainstream British culture and it’s considered throwaway and vague, and I think, we have become comfortable with the name tag and position. I’m not comfortable with this process, art form, culture and experience being relegated to a minor importance, just because it isn’t classical music. A lot of thought and self-analysis goes into making music, let alone hip-hop music, and I wanted to upgrade the perception a little.”